In Form Season 4 Episode 3: Show Review

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In Form Season 4 Episode 3

Are you interested in learning more about the histories and diversity of contemporary poetic form? Then make sure to tune into In Form featured on WVCR 88.3 “The Saint,” Thursday’s at 10pm. This show is produced by Dr. James Belflower, an English Professor at Siena College, with segments written by students from his course, “ENGL 259 Linguistic Architecture | Histories of Poetic Forms.” For those who may not have a background in poetry or poetic form, this show provides a deep insight into experimental poetic forms, but also takes it one step further by walking the listener through a poem analysis. This show includes author biographies, author readings, explanations of key components in poetic form, and discussions of a variety of contemporary poetry.

Let’s dive into Season 4 episode 3!

On this week’s episode of In Form, we heard from three speakers who discussed Fractal Amplification, Performance Poetry, and Slam Poetry. Our first segment by Abby Gregory and Morgan Graves walks us through the form of Fractal Amplification and the poem “Girlfriend” by C.D. Wright. They describe the fractal form as using fragments to power the senses and found that science can be closely tied to this form of poetry. Abby and Morgan discuss how the fragmented pieces of this form helps to create rapid shifts in the poems varied subjects and emotions, but the combination of these pieces help to convey the emotional state of love and memories that come along with it. This unique style of poetry utilizes broken pieces or fragmented phrases to portray how quickly feelings and emotions can shift when falling in love with a person. They also describe fractal amplification as a procedure based style of poetry, as it follows patterns, and recurring lines or words to create depth within the poem. Our speakers related this procedure based style of poetry to their areas of study — psychology and health studies — finding comparisons between formatting this style of poetry to how you create a treatment plan for a patient. Throughout their segment, Abby and Morgan pose many interesting points and questions related to feelings of love, memory, and reasoning that emerge from the fragmented formation of this poem. Even though this form may seem complex, once all of the pieces or fragments are properly aligned, just like a math equation, the poem can be fully understood.

Our next segment by Brooke Thomas dives into performance poetry and the poem “Skinhead” by Patricia Smith. Thomas starts off her segment with the thought, “if the poem is this powerful being read, imagine hearing her speak it?” This became her main branching off point for choosing and analyzing performance poetry. The main focus of this segment is the question “How could occupying the persona of a white supremacist as a black woman enhance the meaning of the performance poem?” The uncomfortable nature of this poem gives readers and listeners the opportunity to think and reflect upon their own actions along with the actions of those around them. Thomas points out, that the live performance of a poem allows for audience incorporation, which provides the author with a drive to perform and share their stories. Addressing the audience throughout the performance of a poem draws people in, making them complicit in the poem’s content. This is especially provocative in Smith’s poem, beccause she uses diction and persona throughout her work to differentiate between “I” the speaker/narrator and “I” as the skinhead in the poem. The use of “I” throughout her poem allows her to take on a character, adding new and unsettling dimensions to her portrayal of a skinhead. This choice speaks volumes against racist remarks and provides a complex exercise that ultimately calls for a change in society’s treatment of hate speech. Performance poetic forms have the ability to spark political change as they can provide insight on what we can think, say, or do in a given context.

Our final segment by Emily Devito dives into another type of performance poetry, Slam poetry. Like the previous segment, slam poetry can be thought of as a powerful verbal performance which allows for engagement with social and political issues, while utilizing poetic devices and forms. Devito seeks to answer the question “how can slam poetry act as a platform for political uprising by providing a voice for those who may not typically have one?” Slam poetry is notorious for influencing social and political change, and the poets mentioned in this segment, Marc Kelly Smith and Amanda Gorman, are known for utilizing this form of poetry as a means for bringing social and political issues to light. Smith’s poem “Echoing Markham’’ along with Amanda Gorman’s poem “Earthrise” both provide insight into the minds of the poet while also trying to persuade the audience one way or another on the political issues at hand. But there is an emphasis on listening to these poems rather than just reading them. And, as the poems make clear, the choice to take on these political and social topics gives voice to these issues while also encouraging listeners to advocate for change as well.

Make sure to tune in to In Form on WVCR 88.3 “The Saint” or listen on iHeart Radio next Thursday at 10pm for another episode on the powers of poetic form.



The Spanish poet, Octavia Paz writes, “Poetry is made out of the very substance of history and society — language.” If this is true then when we give language form, we also formalize history and society. In other words, reality is linguistic architecture.

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Gina Pepe

Hi! My name is Gina and I love reading and exploring poetry. I hope to use this space to further my understanding of poetic forms.